San Francisco, Richmond to consider resolutions condemning Israel

At their next meetings, the Richmond City Council and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will consider resolutions condemning Israel for attacking the Gaza-bound flotilla.

Both bodies are scheduled to discuss the issue Tuesday, June 15.

Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission considered a similar measure at its meeting June 7.

Supervisor John Avalos sponsored the San Francisco resolution, and Supervisor Sophie Maxwell signed on to the eight-page document.

“This is the first time I can remember in my 10 years at JCRC that a city supervisor has authored and another has signed on to a statement that is so blatantly one-sided and lacking in any depth of understanding of the issues at play in the Middle East,” said Abby Porth, associate director at the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council.

“It is outrageous that the city government in San Francisco, Richmond and possibly Berkeley … would even consider becoming embroiled in foreign affairs,” Porth said. “What these city governments should be involved in is dealing with the most significant and pressing local issues in a way that brings the community together rather than divides it.”

The San Francisco resolution condemns the flotilla interception and Israel’s blockade of Gaza because it “collectively deprives the entire population of Gaza of adequate provisions” and because though the blockade is intended to target Hamas, it mainly affects vulnerable Palestinians, such as children and the elderly.

The resolution notes that Israel “maintains the need to protect its southern region against rocket attacks from Gaza.”

Avalos did not return phone calls from j. seeking comment. Maxwell could not be reached, either.

Across the bay, Richmond Vice Mayor Jeff Ritterman, who is Jewish, sponsored the city council resolution.

“We have to say when our own people step out of line,” Ritterman said. “We have to be the ones to say, ‘No, we can do better, we can be more moral, we can find a peace’ … and I don’t think this is the way to do it.”

The Richmond resolution supports the United Nations Security Council condemnation of the flotilla raid. It criticizes Israel for boarding the ship in international waters and charges that Israel violates human rights with its blockade of Gaza. The measure calls for an independent, thorough, credible and transparent investigation into the incident.

This is the second time in recent months the council has considered a non-local issue. In May, the council passed a resolution condemning Arizona’s immigration law and boycotting the state until it is repealed.

“There are local ramifications for international policy, and understanding those and drawing those connections have some importance,” Ritterman said.

Ritterman is the chief of cardiology at Kaiser Richmond Medical Center and has served on the Richmond City Council since January 2009. He has been interested in Israel since he was a child in Brooklyn and Long Island, N.Y.

At 62, he is the same age as Israel and has watched as the country grew up, even living and working on a kibbutz at one point.

“I love Israel. I very much care what happens to Israel and to the Jewish people,” Ritterman said. “But this, I think, is a dead end.”

Ritterman drafted the flotilla resolution before he learned that two people on board the Mavi Marmara were from Richmond. He later added language to reflect that.

It was written “in the context of human rights,” Ritterman said. Neither Hamas nor its steady stream of rockets into Israel are mentioned.

“The international laws that deal with this make it totally clear that that’s irrelevant,” Ritterman said. “You cannot attack a vessel in international waters and you cannot collectively punish a people by denying humanitarian aid.”

Meanwhile, the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission considered a similar resolution at its meeting June 7, but tabled any decision until its next meeting July 12 at the North Berkeley Senior Center.

Wendy Kenin, who is Orthodox, chairs the commission and led the meeting. An estimated 80 people attended, the largest turnout Kenin has seen for a commission meeting.

She said the session was for the most part civil and respectful.

The 15-member Peace and Justice Commission makes recommendations to the Berkeley City Council. At its earliest, the city council would consider the measure in September.

“It’s more important than ever that those in our Jewish community stand up and speak out,” Porth said. “We need the community to come out en masse — today — to call, e-mail and send letters to our local public officials and let them know that we oppose these attempts to isolate Israel on moral grounds … and because we expect our local officials to focus on local issues.”

For more information and to view the S.F. resolution, go to http://propeacesf.blogspot.com.

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.